Immigrant Council highlights rise in number of calls to helpline service
There was a 12 per cent increase in the number of queries to the Immigrant Council helpline last year. Citizenship, family reunification and questions relating to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service online renewal system were among the top three most common issues handled by the service. The findings are part of the 2020 Impact Report, published today (11 August 2021), by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI).
The Council’s Impact Report shows that over 5,000 queries were handled through their free helpline service in 2020. Amidst the outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent closing of immigration offices across Ireland, queries relating to citizenship and family reunification represented almost 40 per cent of the calls. Other common queries included immigration registrations and questions relating to EU treaty rights.
In addition to their helpline services, the Council also provides an anti-racism support service, which offers information and referrals to people who have experienced or witnessed racist incidents in Ireland. During 2020, the ICI saw a 24 per cent increase in reports of racial abuse to their service. A total of 57 people reported incidents of racism – with 27 per cent of the incidents reported happening in the workplace.
The report highlights the impact the pandemic has had on racism, and where people were most likely to experience racial abuse. There were 13 incidents of racism experienced ‘at home’ reported to the service in 2020, an increase from just three in 2019, while the number of reported incidents on public transport decreased. There was double the amount of racist incidents reported to have taken place while accessing public services in 2020, in comparison to the previous year.
Legal Services Provided
An independent law centre is also operated by the Immigrant Council. During 2020, their legal team handled almost 150 cases. The top legal issues they dealt with included:
- Securing residence permissions for victims of domestic violence.
- Supporting migrant and refugee family reunification.
- Supporting citizenship applications.
- Addressing the issue of statelessness.
- Providing assistance to victims of trafficking in securing residence and family reunification.
- Assisting unaccompanied child migrants in securing residence, citizenship and family reunification.
As part of their legal services and through the Council’s partnership with the Kids in Need of Defence (KIND) project, dedicated immigration legal support was provided to 32 child migrants who came to Ireland on their own, separated from family in their home county, and often at the mercy of language barriers.
Commenting today, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Brian Killoran said:
“2020 was an extremely challenging year for migrants, and that is reflected in the report today. The forced closure of immigration offices across the country, due to the pandemic, created great uncertainty for thousands of migrants who were unable to renew their immigration permissions or register their immigration status upon arriving here.
“Ultimately, the pandemic highlighted the cracks in an already broken immigration system in dire need of reform. We need the Government to allocate further resources urgently, to reduce backlogs and processing times, and to ensure that respect and empathy is at the core of their service delivery.”
“In the past year, we’ve also seen a rise in workplace racial abuse – particularly in the healthcare sector during the pandemic. While this may not be the case for every migrant worker in Ireland, it is really important that the voices of those that have been targeted, are heard. People need to realise the devastating impact discrimination can have, and workplaces need to ensure there are effective practices in place to ensure equality.
“At the end of the day, all migrants are asking for is to be treated equally. As a country with a deep history as an emigrant nation, we should be able to afford migrants in Ireland the same treatment received by the many native-born Irish people who emigrated abroad for new opportunities.”
Upskilling and Empowering People
Despite the Immigrant Council team working remotely for the majority of 2020, the organisation continued to run workshops and training programmes online. Their training is aimed at businesses, services, schools and organisations covering various topics concerning migrant rights and diversity. It also runs a number of workshops specifically tailored for migrants, to help educate and empower them to understand their voting rights and become change makers in their local communities.
In total, the Council engaged over 800 participants in 2020, through 50 different workshops and trainings exploring anti-racism and diversity, political participation, community activism and immigration law.